How Plastic is Your Memory?
In today’s class, students learned how memories are formed and stored in the brain by strengthening connections between brain cells. They learned a new task that requires both visual and motor processing in the brain: how to hit a target with beanbags while wearing prism goggles. Students first learned how to toss beanbags at a target on the ground and to hit the target consistently. With the goggles, the target appears shifted relative to its real position. Humans are able to adapt quickly to this new information, however, and learn to hit the target while wearing the goggles. They also quickly unlearn the shift, and go back to hitting the target normally, when the goggles are removed. Ask your student how easy it was for him or her to learn the task and return to normal!
These changes in skill are due to changes in connections between the brain cells (called neurons) that govern vision and the brain cells that control movement. Neurons connect with each other at small gaps called synapses, and they send chemical signals called neurotransmitters across these gaps. Synapses that are used during repeated, successful practice get stronger, and send a stronger signal, with more neurotransmitter. Synapses that are not used are weakened and send a weaker signal.
Everyone had fun, even some of the teachers tried it!!
Next time we will be doing another building project.
See you soon,
Ben and Jefferson